Sunday, March 18

Music makers to create their careers

Ethnomusicology graduates get creative when they finally enter working world


What do you do with a bachelor’s in ethnomusicology?

If you’re a graduating student at UCLA, chances are you
still don’t know. While some students look to medical school
or the workforce for their post-graduate plans, ethnomusicology
students are just ready for a break from their time-consuming

“I know a lot of students on campus joke that we’re
the hippies,” said Michael Gubman, a graduating senior who
plays the guqin (a seven-string Chinese zither) and the bass in
African and Near Eastern styles. “We have class during the
day, and then from 7 to midnight almost every night we’re
still at school learning and studying and practicing, so it’s
a really, really intense program.”

Many ethnomusicology students intend on advancing to graduate
school to earn their Ph.D.s, a standard requirement to participate
in ethnomusicology’s academic world. After four years of
rigorous undergraduate work, though, another half-decade or so of
school can seem daunting.

Joseph Cappello, a turntable performer and president of the
Ethnomusicology Undergraduate Student Organization, has already
spent six years in school because of a switch from engineering to

“I’m vacationing, I’m going home,”
Cappello said. “Taking time off seems to be (what)
three-quarters of the people that graduate (do after leaving

Aside from relaxation, a break can provide an opportunity to
explore available options. Ethnomusicology is a rare, small major
““ UCLA has an average of 10 graduating students per year
““ and while jobs in the field are not plentiful, successful
graduates still have a wide variety to choose from. Beyond a
teaching or professorial career, the music industry offers another

“A lot of people end up working for the Smithsonian
(Museum) and their record label, Smithsonian Folkways. Production
companies, record labels, booking, festivals … it’s kind of
a major where you have to invent your own path,” said Gubman,
who plans on interning as a world music talent agent, as well as
spending time at Stanford University as a visiting scholar.

At the heart of any music program is performance, and those who
don’t want to work in the industry can always fall back on
their instruments.

“I was a vocalist since before I could remember, and I
sang Armenian folk songs,” said Soseh Keshishyan, another
graduating student. “I didn’t want to study anything
else in college.” Keshishyan plans on eventually attending
graduate school for ethnomusicology, but for now, she’s
recording an Armenian folk CD and playing shows around Los

Between the ethnomusicology organization and the
department’s connections, ethnomusicology students have a
plethora of chances to add performances to their resume. On May 7,
the organization presented an all-day festival on campus that
included a set from Gubman’s thirteen-member group Star
Afrisound. The Fowler Museum’s “Fowler Out Loud!”
concert series has also provided a venue for students to hone their
chops in front of a live audience.

“My favorite academic experience has been the performance
ensembles,” Gubman said. “It’s the best way to
get to know the professors, because you’re sitting there,
you’re playing music with them, and you’re learning
from them directly. Every single person is a master in their field.
You can learn so much, and I really feel like that’s the most
unique and valuable experience we have here as students.”

Now that they are graduating, the ethnomusicology students of
the Class of 2005 seem to be going just about everywhere, whether
it’s at the beach or back to school. If nothing else, their
time at UCLA has left them with faith in each other’s ability
to succeed.

“Everyone here has already made something of themselves
and has impressed upon the people here how important they are to a
community, and how they fit into a real-world situation,”
Cappello said. “I really have that courage that everyone in
the ethnomusicology department is going to accomplish their

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